With February being American Heart Month, the YWM Blog continues to share ways to strengthen your heart health and reduce your risk for heart disease.
In addition to knowing and tracking your numbers, being physically active is crucial to heart health. The heart is a muscle, so it gets stronger and healthier if you lead an active life. Regular exercise can help you manage your weight, reduce blood pressure, improve circulation, ward off artery damage from high cholesterol, and reduce the physical (and mental/emotional) effects of stress. Here are three types of exercise you can do to strengthen your heart health.
Aerobic exercise is any activity that gets your blood pumping and works large muscle groups. It improves circulation and helps your heart pump blood more efficiently so that blow flow to all parts of your body is maximized. Health experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
Examples of aerobic exercise include: brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, jumping rope, playing sports such as tennis or basketball, and using exercise equipment such as a stair climber or elliptical machine.
Strength-training exercises involve moving your body with the added resistance of weight, whether you are using your body weight, free weights or weight machines. Strength-training increases muscle mass, improves body composition, boosts your metabolic rate, lowers your risk of injury, and increases the strength of your bones, muscles and connective tissues.
The American Heart Association recommends doing strength training exercises at least twice per week. You can work out with free weights (hand weights, dumbbells, barbells, etc.), on weight machines, with resistance bands or through body resistance exercises such as squats, push-ups, planks, sit-ups, etc.
Stretching, Flexibility and Balance
While these types of exercise may not directly contribute to heart health, they are part of the total equation. According to John Hopkins Medicine, flexibility and balance workouts benefit your musculoskeletal health, which enables you stay flexible, minimize joint pain and other muscular issues such as cramping, muscle tension and mobility issues.
Health experts recommend doing stretching and balance exercises every day, as well as both before and after you exercise. Many people make them part of their wake-up and bedtime routines. You can do basic stretches at home using just your body or get added help from a stability (yoga) ball. If you need extra guidance, try using phone apps, YouTube videos or workout DVDs. Tai Chi, yoga and Pilates are also popular activities that promote relaxation in addition to improving your balance and flexibility.
Looking for more information on heart health and exercise? Click here for additional resources from the American Heart Association.